Oh, and the best story of all, which I've not seen reported in the US (which could just mean that it isn't true): Al Hayat reports that the Near East section in the State Department is threatening to resign en masse if Danielle Pletka is appointed Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs. State Department critics, who have little use for "Arabists" who have highly suspicious Arabic-language skills and actual expertise in the region, might see this threat as an unexpected bonus and make them all the more eager to see Pletka appointed.Pletka also gets into a little intramural tussle with fellow AEInik, Norm Ornstein, over the circumstances surrounding the Danforth resignation. Ornstein thinks something fishy's going on, Pletka claims there's nothing to see.
Back on Dec. 1st, Eli Lake of the NY Sun assembled an update on Is-Pal. Pletka surfaced again, this time to offer soothing words to those unsettled by the administration's failure to seize the opportunity for progress offered by Arafat's death. Natan Sharansky is another name to keep in mind.
Instead of looking like a warmed-over version of President Clinton's Near East diplomacy, the president's approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict looks to be following the tone and substance of the ideas of Mr. Sharansky, whom he met on November 11 before a critical meeting with Prime Minister Blair of Britain as Arafat was dying in a Paris hospital. Mr. Bush is said to have read Mr. Sharansky's latest book in which the former Soviet dissident said the road map process undermined the substance of Mr. Bush's June 24, 2002, speech envisioning new and different Palestinian leaders.Conservative columnist Clifford May touted Sharansky's book in his Dec. 2 column. Sharansky's book, The Case for Democracy, has been read by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Sen. Lieberman, and Jim Woolsey, according to May.
Mr. Sharansky has served as a key channel between Prime Minister Sharon and the Bush administration since December 2000, when he met with Vice President Cheney soon after the Supreme Court decision that handed Mr. Bush the presidency. Mr. Sharansky went on Israeli television after his meeting with Mr. Cheney, whom he has known since his release from a Soviet gulag, and said the new administration would not pressure Israel to negotiate with Arafat. Since that meeting, Mr. Sharansky has slowly but surely made his case to Ms. Rice, the vice president, and other key administration officials that no peace with the Palestinian Arabs would be possible for Israel until a Palestinian leadership became committed to building the institutions of a free state.
"The peace process has always been characterized by form over substance, process over peace. President Bush made clear that he is uninterested in summits for the sake of cocktails and conferences to trade accusations," the vice president for foreign policy and defense studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Danielle Pletka, said yesterday. "I imagine if the process for achieving genuine results on the ground is real, the White House will do all that it takes and more."